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TRAI needs to look beyond mmWave to address 5G-6G spectrum insufficiency

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s decision to begin consultations on opening up several 5G high-bands or millimetre wave (mmWave) spectrum will not compensate for the lack of 5G spectrum in mid bands and especially 6 gigahertz (GHz).

On April 4, TRAI released a consultation paper on the possibility of spectrum auctions in 37-3 7.5 GHz, 37.5-40 GHz and 42.5-43.5 GHz bands for mobile telephony.

But this focus on mmwave will shift discussions away from freeing up at least 2 GHz of spectrum in the mid-band, and especially 6GHz band, executives from Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel, told Business Standard.

The two telecom service providers (TSPs) are the only ones offering 5G services in India.

Mmwave or spectrum bands above 24 GHz are a valuable resource when targeting densely populated urban areas.

The high band offers an opportunity to TSPs to offer unprecedented peak rates, low latency, and high capacity.

The mmwave is limited due to signals not being able to travel as far as mid and low-band signals. Often, they travel less than a mile and are more susceptible to interference from trees, buildings, and even glass.

But the benefit of mmwave spectrum is that if the signal is unencumbered, users can get connection speeds between 1 Gbps to 3 Gbps or even higher.

“High bands like the 37.5 GHz have certain targeted use cases for 5G, especially in high density urban areas. But what is really required is opening up the 6GHz band. There have been multiple meetings on this issue. And, we have communicated our position to the government,” a telco official said.

While the 37-37.5 GHz has been globally earmarked for broadband mobile use, the 37.5-40 GHz and 40-42.5 GHz bands have both mobile and satellite gateway link use.

Similarly, while the 40-42.5 GHz band is only for satellite usage, the 42.5-43.5 GHz band has both usage.

Need for 6GHz
The 6 GHz band represents the largest block of unused spectrum and is being fought over by telcos and tech companies. This is due to its significant potential for 5G connectivity and WiFi expansion. In December, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) set aside 6.425-7.125GHz for licensed, mobile operations.

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which counts Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea among its members, has argued that at least 1200 MHz of spectrum needs to be allocated for mobile communications in India. Currently, only 720 MHz is available in the mid-band in India, it said.

The decision was taken at the 10th World Radiocommunication
Conference (WRC-23), held to review and revise international agreements on the use of radio spectrum.

Given that WRCs are held every four years under the auspices of the ITU, officials say there is ample time for India to solidify its position on the matter. Business Standard

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